Dmitry Golynko-Volfson, 1969-2023

Dmitry Golynko-Volfson (standing, far right), with Viktor Sosnora’s literary club, in 1987 or 1988.
Photo by Viktor Tikhomirov. Courtesy of Elena Novikova

Mitya and I met in 1987 at Viktor Toporov’s translation seminar at the Leningrad Youth Palace. Translations and all sorts of quasi-literary and professional news were discussed at the beginning of the seminar, while at the end there were readings, first by the novices, then by the old-timers. One day Toporov announced, without a tinge of his usual irony, that a young genius, fourteen–year-old Dmitry Golynko, was about to read. And indeed, a young man, almost a boy, got up and read his own rendering of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which reproduced the meter, stanzaic form, and length of Wilde’s original. Everyone sat listening, their mouths agape. Mitya and I quickly became friends. Mitya also attended Viktor Sosnora’s literary club at the Tsiurupa Recreational Center on the Obvodny Canal. About once a week, Mitya hosted the Sosnorovites at his own home on Bronnitskaya Street. They took turns reading their work and drank tea — Mitya’s mother strictly ensured that there was no alcohol, not a single drop. Thanks to his mother and her friends, who rubbed shoulders with the dissidents, Mitya was a child prodigy and a polyglot, a treasure trove of all sorts of knowledge. He memorized the poems of Gorbanevskaya and Brodsky, not to mention Sosnora. I don’t know whether his own poems from that period have survived, most likely not. But there is a website that contains slightly later pieces, from the late 1980s, and they show that he already wielded an intricate mastery of versification. Sosnora’s training was manifested not only in Mitya’s virtuosic and diverse technique. He also chanted rather than recited poems, and, like his mentor, he subscribed to the tragic model of the damned poet. And he set himself daunting tasks: never content with what he had already done, he consistently sought out new architectonics and fearlessly discarded old forms like spent rocket stages.

In the 1990s, he wrote large complex multipart poems. Enchantingly witty, they featured elements of kitsch and parody, an abundance of neologisms and anachronisms, and a carnival debunking of literary centrism (e.g., “The Tale of the Istanbul Lady Treasurer,” “Sashenka, or A Diary of an Ephemeral Death,” and “Dead Ears, or The Death of Anton Petrovich Shchedrikov-Saltyn”). We could call this his neo-baroque or postmodernist period. Gradually, as the 1990s drew to a close, this baroque harlequinade was adulterated with “cyberpunk”: hi-tech and dystopian subject matter emerged in his poems, while humor and eccentricity yielded to sarcasm. In the early 2000s, Golynko-Wolfson abruptly altered his style: he began producing gloomy serial compositions, ringing the changes on one or two colloquial phrases, sometimes obscene, deploying these “idioms” in an endless monotonous spiral spinning down into nothingness, into the black hole of the Real. Starting with “Elementary Things” (2002), his texts are dominated by an aesthetic of the abject. His poems explore various gradations of alienation and reification (commodification) at the micro-level of human and non–human relations; they are chockablock with cold despair, misanthropy, and often (let’s be honest) misogyny. The latter is a trace of romantic wounds. (Mitya was loved by wonderful young women, but every one of these affairs, of which, I confess, I was a little jealous, ended in a breakup, and Mitya wound up alone.)

Acting the role of the accursed poet at some point ceased to be an act. Friends left the country and died, and his circle of friends fell apart. For some time Mitya was sustained by his academic research, his collaboration with Moscow Art Magazine and other contemporary art periodicals, and the latest philosophical concepts. (He continued to be a polyglot.) But as a poet — as an outstanding poetic innovator who had created not one, but several original poetic systems — he clearly did not receive the recognition he deserved, at least at home in Russia. He was fired from the Institute of Art History, where in 1999 he defended his PhD dissertation, “The Contemporary Russian Post-Avantgarde: Styles, Models, Strategies.” At Borey Gallery, which published his first book Homo scribens (1994), the Petersburg fundamentalists [a right-wing group of writers] had firmly established themselves. The atmosphere in Russia was becoming poisoned. I noticed more and more often that when Mitya spoke or read, the corners of his lips drooped in a disgusted, contemptuous half-smile, and his face was like a mask. He was consumed by an object-oriented disgust, and it was this disgust that fueled his writing. At some point, it turned on him as well. For the last three or four years, he had been slowly killing himself with alcohol. I watched it happened, horrified, realizing that there was nothing I could do. (Once upon a time, when his mother died — and she died young, and Mitya, still very young, was left an orphan — he moved for a while to a communal flat on Rubinstein, provided by a friend, to collect his wits, as they say. One day he telephoned me at the boiler plant where I worked and said that he wanted to make himself eggs sunny side up, but he couldn’t manage it. Couldn’t I come over and help him? I went to the flat, made the fried eggs, and sat with him in the kitchen as he ate them, before quickly returning to my shift. I remember his shaking hands and childish confusion. I will always remember them.)

Dmitry Golynko-Volfson — a poet of metaphysical orphanhood and despair — has left behind a huge legacy. With his departure, a similarly huge hole has formed in Petersburg’s cultural fabric — and in my heart. Goodbye, dear friend, and forgive me.

Source: “In memory of Dmitry Golynko-Volfson (9.12.1969—6.01.2023): Alexander Skidan on the late poet and New Literary Review author,” New Literary Review, 7 January 2022. Translated by Thomas H. Campbell, who met Mitya in 1995 and for several years lived a few doors down from him on Bronnitskaya. His funeral and wake took place earlier today in his hometown of Petersburg. You can read more tributes to him by his fellow poets here (in Russian).

UPDATE: 16 January 2023. Eugene Ostashevsky writes: “For a pdf of Dmitry Golynko’s 2008 UDP book As It Turned Out, please go to https://uglyducklingpresse.org/publicat…/as-it-turned-out/ and click on ‘View Digital Proof.’ The book is bilingual and includes work from the 1990s and the 2000s.”

“Our People Are Not Terrorists”

Defense attorney Edem Semedlyaev and Crimean Tatar political prisoner Raif Fevziev, Rostov-on-Don, Russia, 12 January 2023. Imam Fevziev’s t-shirt reads, “Our people are not terrorists.” Photo courtesy of Imam Fevziev and Crimean Solidarity via Mumine Saliyeva

In one of his interviews from the dungeons of the Rostov pretrial detention center, Dagestani journalist Abdulmumin Hajiyev commented on the everyday lives of inmates: “Lately, I’ve been thinking about taking cooking lessons. For some reason, there has been a skilled cook in every cell I’ve inhabited since Makhachkala. Sirazhutdin (Kumyk), Magomed (Avar), Rutem and Alim (Crimean Tatars) — I always admired the enthusiasm and care with which those guys spent several hours every day cooking something delicious for their cellmates with only a bucket and an immersion hot-water boiler to hand. Hajiyev also mentions Alim Karimov, a defendant in the Crimean Hizb ut-Tahrir case, with whom he has shared a cell for a over year a year. Over this time, Alim has learned Arabic.

Yesterday, a Russian court sentenced Karimov and four other defendants, among whom there are pensioners with disabilities, to thirteen years in prison each. The two years it took to try the case on the merits were memorable in several ways. There was an ambulance present at the hearings, but its crew did not provide qualified medical care to the defendants, who were forbidden to speak Crimean Tatar during the proceedings. Putting old men in the dock for talking about Islam had nothing to do with the letter of the law. Instead, it speaks to Islamophobia cloaking itself in the law’s guise, and to the disgrace of the foot soldiers who executed this drama.

A few days ago, my fellow journalist had the opportunity to hand over to me his new articles, one of which tells the story of Ernes Ametov, a cellmate from Crimea, who was sentenced to eleven years in prison by a military court in late December because he would not do a deal with a lie.

Today, Russia’s Southern District Military Court again handed down a verdict to a Crimean Tatar religious figure. Imam Raif Fevziev was sentenced to seventeen years in a high-security penal colony (with the first three years to be served in an ordinary prison) for having a seventy-minute conversation about religion. His trial took place at the same time as the trial of Crimean defendants in another criminal case. Friends and colleagues of Fevziev’s — the religious figures Ismet Ibragimov, Vadim Bektemirov, Aider Dzhapparov, and Lenur Khalilov — had earlier been sentenced to brutal terms of imprisonment by the very same court. These are textbook political persecutions: the NKVD used the same methods, in the past, to eradicate and destroy religious and public figures who had influence among the people.

It is quite difficult to cope with such a merciless chronicle of crackdowns. But when you see and feel what kind of regime you have come face to face with, and how the political prisoners, their families, and a whole people wisely and peacefully oppose it, you have no choice but to recharge your batteries, be more resilient, and go on working, while believing ever more fiercely that change will come.

I read in a book that a system based on segregation and tyranny is a large-scale manmade disaster. The people involved in perpetuating it may well understand that the breakdown of such a “juggernaut” is inevitable, and that they themselves, collectively, are causing the breakdown. But each of them assumes that it’s not their own personal fault, but everyone else’s. Each of them, on the contrary, believes that they are trying to save it — through cruelty, by cracking down on those dubbed “enemies” and “undesirables.” Ultimately, however, they fail to save it.

Source: Mumine Saliyeva, Facebook, 12 January 2023. Translated by Hecksinductionhour

An Unexpected Twist in the Case of Anti-War Activist Vsevolod Korolev

Vsevolod Korolev in the dock at Vyborg District Court in Petersburg. Photo by Valentin Nikitchenko

An unexpected twist in the Vsevolod Korolev case

On January 12, Peterburg’s Vyborg District Court held a hearing on the merits of the criminal case against Petersburg documentary filmmaker Vsevolod Korolev. At today’s hearing, the complainant and prosecution witness Mikhail Baranov was cross-examined. It was Baranov who had requested that law enforcement agencies file criminal charges against Korolev.

Baranov unexpectedly changed his initial testimony, telling the court that he considered the posts by the accused “an expression of free speech,” and that he himself had “liked” Korolev’s posts to give them more publicity. The prosecution witness also said that the police had come to his home, and that he had been questioned at the police department about that very same “like.” It was only after this interaction that Baranov had filed the complaint, asking the authorities to determine whether Korolev’s posts constituted “disseminating fake news about the army.”

However, the interrogation record in the case file paints a different picture: according to it, Baranov had gone to the police himself. Korolev’s posts had, allegedly, angered him. Today, at the trial, Baranov said that he could not remember what his emotions were at the time, and that his opinion could have changed.

Source: Politzek-Info (Telegram), 12 January 2023. Photo by Valentin Nikitchenko. Translated by Hecksinductionhour


29 July 2022

Vsevolod Korolev, a St. Petersburg poet and documentary filmmaker remanded in custody on charges of spreading ‘fake news’ about the Russian army, is a political prisoner. Until his arrest, Vsevolod Korolev supported people subjected to repression for anti-war statements: he made a documentary about those prosecuted and he called the war a war

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial


The human rights project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ considers Vsevolod Korolev a political prisoner in line with international standards. He is being prosecuted for posts on social networks. Korolev’s criminal prosecution violates his constitutional right to freedom of expression. His prosecution is intended to silence voices in Russia that oppose the war against Ukraine and to intimidate civil society. 

We demand the immediate release of Vsevolod Korolev and the termination of all criminal prosecutions under the unconstitutional Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Who is Vsevolod Korolev and what are the charges against him?

Vsevolod Korolev, 34, is from St. Petersburg and in recent years he has been active in the city’s volunteer movement and engaged in civic activism. Korolev has worked as a volunteer with the Perspectives Charitable Foundation and the St. Petersburg Observers movement (which organizes independent election observation).

After the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Korolev became very active in the anti-war movement. On his social media pages he wrote about the crimes of the Russian military, attended the trials of those arrested on charges related to the war, collected donations of food and other necessities for those held on remand, and made documentary films about what was happening. For example, he made films about the prosecutions for ‘anti-war’ activities of the artist Sasha Skochilenko and the journalist Maria Ponomarenko.

On 11 July 2022, a criminal case was opened against Vsevolod Korolev on suspicion of disseminating information known to be false about the use of the Russian armed forces. The next day his apartment was searched and he was detained.

Korolev is accused of making posts in March and April 2022 on the VK social media site about the crimes of the Russian military in Bucha and Borodyanka near Kiev and about the shelling of Donetsk. Korolev subsequently confirmed he had made posts about the war in Ukraine, but maintained they contained no lies.

Korolev understood the risks of speaking out freely. ‘I refuse to not say the truth about things,’ he wrote on his social networks.

On 13 July, a St. Petersburg court remanded Korolev in custody, even though he has had his thyroid removed and needs regular medical examinations.

Korolev faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Why do we consider Vsevolod Korolev a political prisoner?

Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code criminalising dissemination of information known to be false about the actions of the Russian army contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international obligations and fundamental principles of law.

In particular, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.’ Restrictions on the exercise of these rights ‘shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’ Such norms are also contained in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution. The restrictions on freedom of expression introduced by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code serve none of these purposes and are a form of censorship. This is all the more so given that, in the course of an armed conflict, it is not always possible to establish the accuracy of statements made by the parties to the conflict, and the Russian authorities hold simply that official reports by the Russian Ministry of Defence should be considered reliable.

Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code was specifically created as an instrument for the prosecution of critics of the Russian authorities and criminalises any statements about the use of the Russian armed forces abroad. This has already been confirmed in practice. Under this article, people are more often prosecuted not even for statements of fact but for expressing their opinions and personal attitudes. At the same time, the prosecuting authorities ascribe to many of those prosecuted, like Vsevolod Korolev, the subjective motive of ‘political hatred,’ which significantly increases the potential penalty.

A more detailed description of this case and the position of the Human Rights Project can be found on our Telegram channel.

A full list of political prisoners in Russia can be found on our temporary website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’ project agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

You can send letters to the following address:

In Russian: 196655, г. Санкт-Петербург, г. Колпино, ул. Колпинская, д. 9, ФКУ СИЗО-1 УФСИН России по СПб и ЛО, Королёву Всеволоду Анатольевичу 1987 г. р. 

In English: Vsevolod Anatolievich Korolev (dob 1987), Remand Prison No. 1 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region, 9 Kolpinskaya Street, Kolpino, St. Petersburg, 196655, Russia.

Electronic mail can be sent via FederalPenitentiaryService-Letter and Zonatelekom.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners.


Translated by Rights in Russia

Source: “‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: St. Petersburg poet and documentary filmmaker Vsevolod Korolev is a political prisoner,” Rights in Russia, 10 October 2022. As I have pointed out in previous posts on Russian anti-war protesters and political prisoners, Russian remand prisons and penal colonies only accept letters written in Russian, and the federal penitentiary service’s FSIN-Pismo service and Zonatelekom are only accessible to residents of the Russian Federation. It’s also almost a certainty that YooMoney, another Russia-based service, will not accept money from non-Russian bank cards. ||| TRR

Armen Aramyan: Russians Are Not Chimpanzees

These are scenes from a May 2008 session of Petersburg’s Street University, a grassroots undertaking that I helped launch in response to the Putin regime’s sudden, underhanded shutdown of the nearby European University in February 2008. I unearthed these snapshots from my long-dormant Photobucket account, about whose existence I was reminded by an email from the service that I found by accident in my spam folder whilst working on this post earlier this morning. I think it’s a nice illustration of the point made, below, by Armen Aramyan, who must have been nearly the same age as Tasya, the little girl in the second and third pictures, when I took them. If the war can be stopped and Russian society can be salvaged in the foreseeable future, however, it will require a lot more than creative “sociology,” the right combination of critical theories, the power of (“progressive”) positive thinking, and hypervigilant discursive gatekeeping. At minimum, it will require a massive manifestation. This would be different in kind and magnitude from the current instances of grassroots resistance that Mr. Aramyan enumerates below, which are almost entirely the work of lone individuals, not the actions of a seriously mobilized grassroots or, much less, of a more or less widespread and vigorous “anti-war movement.” ||| TRR


Hi, this is Armen Aramyan!

On Monday, iStories published a column by its editor, Roman Anin, in which he laments the moral degradation that “has engulfed not only the so-called elites, but also society.” He claims that the majority of Russians support military aggression, and that the political system is in such decline that we can make predictions about Russia’s future by invoking the discourse of primatology.

“Human DNA is 99% the same as the DNA of chimpanzees, whose entire polity revolves around the alpha male. While the alpha male is young and strong, he keeps the whole pack at bay, manages the distribution of resources, mates with all the females, and severely punishes those who question his authority. But as soon as the alpha male begins to age and show signs of weakness, a fierce war to take his place ensues. […] In my opinion, the Russian political system today is not much different from the power arrangements in chimpanzee troops.”

There is no grassroots resistance in the Russia about which Anin writes. There is no torching of military enlistment offices, no teachers who refuse to conduct propaganda lessons, no activists who assist Ukrainians in getting out of Russia. There are no people prosecuted for speaking out and acting against the authorities. There are only big shots who divvy up the loot behind closed doors.

But activists and anti-war resistance do exist, and [some] sociologists have claimed that the pro-war segment of Russian society is a small minority that is averse to political action of any kind.

Why do we continue to encounter such remarks?

I would suggest calling the worldview that informs such remarks Naive Anti-Putinism, or NAP.

NAP sees Russia as a fringe country. The processes in it can be explained only through allusions to fantasy novels, such as dubbing Russia “Mordor,” from The Lord of the Rings, or referencing the Harry Potter universe. (Have the images from fantasy novels run out and we are now on the Planet of the Apes?) Russia is so unique that there are processes taking place in it that don’t exist anywhere else (with the possible exception of North Korea). This Russia suffers from a patriarchal regime and a total absence of democratic institutions. (That is, power belongs to individual groups and their leaders, who do not rely on any institutions). The enlightened achievements of European democracies have not yet reached Russia, and so now we are doomed to live amidst an endless Games of Thrones (to invoke yet another fantasy novel comparison). In this system, all that remains for us is to analyze what intrigues the different Kremlin clans are pursuing.

Resistance, grassroots movements, the struggle for democracy, and revolution are impossible in this reality. So, all that naive anti-Putinists are capable of doing is resorting to moral critiques delivered from a superior position and continuing to admonish us that the common folk in Russia are bad, having failed to accept the enlightened achievements of European democracies. If there is no democracy [in Russia], [that is because] the ordinary folk simply don’t want it. That is NAP’s entire explanatory arsenal.

Naive Anti-Putinism does not envision the possibility of change in Russia, much less revolution or the destruction of Putin’s elite. It is a readymade scheme that enables certain groups in society to make peace with reality and continue to watch the new season of Game of Thrones.

For example, if you are a businessman or an IT worker who relocated [to another country] after the war’s outbreak and invested all your resources in adapting to a new place (most likely — quite successfully), you probably don’t really want to figure out how to build democracy in Russia and support the grassroots resistance.

But you can also imagine another situation: you are a researcher who has spent a great deal of time and effort investigating how the power elite throws bags of money around. Probably, at some point, you might imagine that there is nothing else besides this cynical redistribution of the loot.

Alexander Zamyatin, in a discussion of the emigration on the podcast This Is the Base, makes a great point: “You can’t be a gravedigger of the old regime while grieving for its missed opportunities.” We can speculate for a long time about NAP’s origins, and why many members of the anti-war movement espouse this position.

But if we want to end the war and build democracy in Russia, we need to think differently. Even if we imagine that this is impossible right now, do we really think that democracy is altogether impossible in Russia? And if it is possible, what would it look like in reality? What movements would be needed to make it happen? How would they gain power? How would this power be redistributed and how to make sure that it is not abused? These are the questions that should concern all of us members of the anti-war movement on a daily basis.

Centuries of class, colonial, and gender oppression led to the emergence of strong theories elucidating the structure of power in modern societies. The crises of the nineteenth century spurred the elaboration of theories about class and capitalism. Representattives colonized peoples, as well as their allies in the West, formulated theories about how imperialism and colonialism function. Activists and theorists of women’s movements offered accounts of how gender dominance operates in modern societies.

If we reject the entire legacy of critical theory, as many NAPpers do, then we need to propose something else. But this something is definitely not primatology or allusions to Harry Potter. But one might have to read other books to to find this something else.

P. S. But also do not assume that the animal kingdom — and in particular the political systems of primates — is so primitive. Usually, reducing people to animals is a conservative move whose purpose is to show that human relations are grounded in competition and the struggle for survival, in which the strongest win. I recommend reading this essay by the anthropologist David Graeber, in which he argues that this is not at all the case.

Source: Armen Aramyan, DOXA Anti-War Newsletter #313 (10 January 2023). Mr. Aramyan is one of the editors of the online anti-war magazine DOXA. In April 2021, he and three other editors of the then-student magazine were sentenced to two years of “correctional labor” (i.e., community service) over a video questioning whether it was right for teachers to discourage students from attending rallies protesting opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s incarceration. Translated by the Russian Reader

Priest Versus Imam

Ioann Kurmoyarov in court. Photo by and courtesy of SOTA

Today in St. Petersburg, the trial in the case of the defrocked Orthodox priest Ioann Kurmoyarov on charges of disseminating “fake news” about the army continued. Kurmoyarov had claimed that those who invaded Ukraine would go to hell.

A theological discussion unfolded in court. Imam Fayzulla Karimov, who barely speaks Russian but was revealed to be the “expert linguist” who had assessed Kurmoyarov’s theological videos, testified as a witness for the prosecution.

It transpired that a specialist of his profile was required by the investigation to evaluate Kurmoyarov’s statement that “those who consider themselves Christians and support this war should change their religion and convert to Islam,” thus, allegedly, “inciting interfaith discord.”

From the questions posed to the “expert witness,” it transpired that he, as a native of Tajikistan, had not formally studied Russian, but had graduated from the Faculty of Philology in Dushanbe in 2004 and the Islamic University in 2014.

Kurmoyarov had been bringing the imam round to the idea that Islam, unlike Christianity, has a concept of holy war in the literal sense of the word, but the judge struck down his questions.

Here is an example of the dialogue between the judge and imam, demonstrating the latter’s level of knowledge of the Russian language (although he travels to Russia for short visits, he lives permanently in Tajikistan):

Judge: Are you acquainted with Kurmoyarov?
Imam: I am acquainted.
Judge (forcefully): Are you acquainted with Kurmoyarov?
Imam: I am not acquainted.

[…]

Source: SOTA (Telegram), 9 January 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader

Mikhail Lobanov: Why Police Raided My Home

Mikhail Lobanov in August 2021. Photo by Kirill Medvedev

Why did the police raid my home?

The formal reason — as follows from the court ruling and what people from pro-Kremlin media have heard — is a fictitious “connection” between me and ex-State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev. This is a product of the meager imagination of the security forces. I have not interacted with Ponomarev in any way, either in 2022 or in previous years, neither personally, nor through other people.

Why did the authorities have to intimidate me? I have two possible explanations.

The first and most likely explanation is that Moscow City Hall was behind the raid.

The following facts speak in favor of this explanation.

1) PR support. [The Telegram channel] Kremlin Laundress, which published posts containing threats and attempts to denigrate me (including a week before the raid), is a “drain tank” for the mayor’s office. The secretary of the Communist Party City Committee told me about this more than a year ago: they had been watching [the channel] for a long time and had come to this conclusion.

2) There was no investigator present during the raid. The field agents who were on hand, having unenthusiastically asked me two questions at the outset — whether I was connected with Ponomarev, and whether I had delegated [Vladimir] Zalishchak and [Sergei] Tsukasov to some congress — did not return to this topic during the six hours we spent together. But they did spend a great deal of time trying to persuade me that I should not be involved in politics by making threats (while drawing parallels with [Ilya] Yashin and [Yulia] Galyamina) and giving me “friendly” advice.

3) The mayor [of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin] will run for re-election later this year, and his “victory” may further delegitimize the regime. In 2021–2022, my name was inextricably linked with the most successful opposition election campaigns in Moscow. Teams of like-minded people formed around me during both the municipal and the parliamentary elections. By mobilizing the enthusiasm of thousands of dynamic people, we defeated United Russia and corporate candidates. Political spin doctors and administrative resources were powerless against us. By accumulating the support of ordinary people, we achieved greater results than did candidates with exponentially larger campaign coffers.

Yes, our victories were stolen [through rigging] online voting. But even today, unbowed people can together find a way to use the mayor’s re-election campaign to organize themselves and make his “re-election” problematic.

For some reason, the Kremlin’s foreign policy “successes” in 2022 have not had the effect that the people who allocate tens of billions to state propaganda wanted. If the protest-minded segment of the electorate is mobilized in a minimal way, the construction business and ruling class candidate will enjoy only a Pyrrhic victory, one based on flagrant vote rigging.

A second possible explanation is that the raid on my home and my arrest are part of preparations to transfer power to puppet ultra-right revanchists.

In this case, what is happening to me reflects the fear of people with a consistent democratic anti-war stance on the part of officials, siloviki, and the oligarchs who have fused with them. We are trying to develop real trade unions and push the topic of blatant economic inequality onto the agenda.

After the ruling group’s collapse, the far-right revanchists will try to play the card of virtual “angry patriots” and maintain the existing system of domination. If they succeed, there will be a new dictator, increased crackdowns, a new round of spending on “security,” funded by a shrinking budget and, in the medium term, another senseless war.

But I believe that there are many dynamic people in Russian society who will be able to formulate a convincing left-democratic alternative and inspire tens of millions of other people. I look to the future with hope.

Source: Mikhail Lobanov, Facebook, 9 January 2023. Thanks to Simon Pirani for encouraging me to share this piece with my readers. Translated by the Russian Reader, who is much less hopeful about Russia’s future than is Mr. Lobanov. But more power to him!

Khudain Gol: Voices of the Kuda Valley

 
88th release from Antonovka Records
 
Buryats are a native people of the Republic of Buryatia, the Irkutsk region and the Transbaikal region. The Irkutsk Region (Russian: oblast) consists of 32 districts (Russian: rayons), six of which form the Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Area (Russian: okrug) with the capital in the village of Ust-Ordynsky (Ust-Orda). Thus, in the administrative structure, the okrug has an intermediate position between the region and the district. From 1990 to 2008, however, it was a separate subject of the Russian Federation equal in status to a region. In 2008 the status was downgraded.
 
The Khudain Gol (“Kuda Valley” in Buryat) Ensemble was founded in Ust-Orda in 1986. The band performs folk songs of the local Buryats in their own arrangements. The leader is Nina Baldynova, the choirmaster is Bayar Zhambalov.
 
On the album cover photo, from left to right:
1. Irina Yatogurova: vocals
2. Bayar Zhambalov: vocals, chanza (10, 11)
3. Victoria Khakhalova: vocals
4. Nina Baldynova: vocals
5. Andrey Banzaraktsaev: vocals, solo vocals (10)
6. Nina Baldaeva: vocals
7. Elena Barkhunova: vocals
8. Alexander Mantatov: vocals, solo vocals (11)
9. Victoria Mandanova: vocals
10. Albina Makhasoeva: vocals
11. Alexander Tsybenov: vocals
 
The Buryat song titles are written as given by the performers and may differ slightly from the literary version.
 
Recorded on July 18, 2022 at the Ust-Ordynsky House of Culture, Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Area, Irkutsk Region, Russia.
 
Thanks to Irina Molotkova, the ensemble, Lyudmila Gerda, and Natalya Dmitrieva.
 
 
Source: Antonovka Records, Facebook, 8 January 2023
 
 
 

News from Ukraine Bulletin 27

A Ukrainian flag at Il Vecchio Italian restaurant in Pacific Grove, California, October 2022. Photo by the Russian Reader

News from Ukraine Bulletin 27 (3 January 2023)

A Digest of News from Ukrainian Sources

News from the territories occupied by Russia:

Russia moves to legislate ‘impunity’ for all war crimes committed in occupied Ukraine  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 30th)

Crimean Tatar civic journalist sentenced to 11 years for refusing to collaborate with Russia’s FSB  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 30th)

Russians kidnapped 30 mayors, 7 of them went missing – Kyiv Mayor  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 30th)

Detention centre employee who helped torture Ukrainians found in Kherson  (Ukrainska Pravda, December 30th)

Abducted Ukrainian civic journalist sentenced to 7 years in brazen show of lawlessness in Russian-occupied Crimea   (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 29th)

Russia plans to imprison soldier who admitted to murder and plunder in Ukraine – for ‘circulating fake news’  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 28th)

“She did everything so that Ukraine could see: Crimeans are still waiting for liberation”: human rights activists called Iryna Danylovych’s sentence fabricated (Zmina, December 28th)

Russians threatened to kill abducted Crimean Tatar’s family if he didn’t sign fake ‘confession’  (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, December 28th)

News from Ukraine – general:

Life during wartime (Alice Zhuravel on Twitter, January 2nd)

Ukraine prepares to give free rein to property developers  (Open Democracy, December 28th)

14 tons of humanitarian aid delivered to Donetsk (Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, 26 December)

Film about the working conditions of Ukrainian railway workers  (Spil’ne / Solidarity Collectives, December 27th)

Trapped in the Trenches in Ukraine  (New Yorker, December 26th)

Analysis and comment:

Special Issue on Ukraine  (Insurgent Notes, January)

“There is nothing cheaper in Russia than human life”  (Der Standard, December 31st)

Russia. Renaissance is not going to happen  (People & Nature, December 28th)

TikTok in service of FSB. How a social network for funny videos turned into a Kremlin propaganda mouthpiece  (The Insider, December 28th)

How Kremlin organizes pro-Putin rallies in Germany and why neo-Nazis participate  (The Insider, December 27th)

Multipolarity, the Mantra of Authoritarianism  (The India Forum, December 20th)

Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict in Ukraine? (Europe Solidaire, December 23rd)

Research of human rights abuses:

Homes and lives destroyed in northern Ukraine (Tribunal for Putin, 28 December)

Ukraine must ratify the Rome Statute now (Tribunal for Putin, 28 December)

“They put him in the basement, tortured him, and tore his tendons.” How Russia terrorizes ZNPP staff to keep a tight grip on the plant  (The Insider, December 22nd)

International solidarity:

Thanks to you  (Solidarity Collectives, December 29th)

==

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What I Like About Photographs

“’What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.’ 
Karl Lagerfeld, German fashion designer and photographer.”

Source: Dmitry Markov, Facebook, 3 January 2022. I found the original text of the Lagerfeld quotation on Goodreads. ||| TRR


The origins of the town of Vorkuta are associated with Vorkutlag, one of the most notorious forced-labour camps of the Gulag. Vorkutlag was established in 1932 with the start of mining. It was the largest of the Gulag camps in European Russia and served as the administrative centre for a large number of smaller camps and subcamps, among them Kotlas, Pechora, and Izhma (modern Sosnogorsk). The Vorkuta uprising, a major rebellion by the camp inmates, occurred in 1953.

In 1941 Vorkuta and the labour camp system based around it were connected to the rest of the world by a prisoner-built rail line linking Konosha, Kotlas, and the camps of Inta. Town status was granted to Vorkuta on November 26, 1943.

Source: Wikipedia

In One Hundred Years

In One Hundred Years (A New Year’s Fantasy)

On the eve of the new year of 2023, the Great Worldwide Soviet Republic communicated by radio with the nearest republic on the planet of Mars, inviting delegates from the latter to a celebration and receiving, in turn, an invitation from the Martian Republic.

Earth assigned a total of 415,000 delegates from its five parts, while Mars assigned 630,000 delegates from its seven parts. The delegates boarded airplane trains and headed to the celebration.

The airplane trains took 19 hours and 17 minutes to travel between Earth and Mars.

Earth was lit up for the occasion by the electro-sun invented in 1994 by the electro-engineer Makov, a peasant from the current Kaluga Province in the Russian District. Besides lighting Earth, Makov’s electro-sun gave off heat, but not the intolerable kind, like the real sun did. The electro-sun’s heat was considerably milder, and its light also emitted an unusual aroma that combined all the world’s fragrances.

The Martian comrades were welcomed with music by the World Orchestra via a gramophone organ that transmitted melodies over any distance at the same volume, so the music was as audible on Mars and the other planets as it was on Earth.

After the neighboring planet’s delegation was welcomed, the festivities commenced.

________

On New Year’s Day 2023, the inhabitants of the two planets were to be dazzled by all the beautiful, magnificent and beyond marvelous things wrought by the collective mind and millions of hands of their creators.

The celebration on Earth was kicked off by a 137-year-old citizen of Petersburg, the worker Prokhorov, a contemporary of Lenin and Trotsky, the founders of the Russian Republic and of the Worldwide Republic that succeeded it. Despite his advanced age, this last Mohican of the RSFSR looked like a young man of 18 years since in that time old age was cured, so to speak, like a garden-variety headache. Thanks to Doctor Patokin’s pills, which had vanquished aging, the residents of Earth in the aforementioned era had the appearance of splendid, strapping youngsters. Death was a quite rare phenomenon: the newspapers reported as an intolerable circumstance that should have no place in the happy Republic.

When Prokhorov took the podium, which was surrounded by mirrors that broadcast the speaker’s reflection to all corners of Earth and Mars, he spoke into a loudspeaker of his own invention. It amplified the sound of the voice such that it could be heard over any distance. (Prokhorov had also invented the gramophone organ mentioned above.)

Prokhorov spoke in detail about the emergence of the First Soviet Socialist Republic, and his account was illustrated by a movie projector whose screen was the sky.

All the events between 1917 and 2023 passed before the eyes of the spectators.

One of them, a 14-year-old citizen, pointed to the moving images and asked his father, who was standing next to him:

“Dad, how tall were people then?”

“People your age were half your size, while adults, on average, would have come up to your shoulder, if they weren’t shorter,” his father replied.

“Poor things,” said the 14-year-old citizen with sincere pity. In terms of height and build, he resembled our undefeated wrestler [Ivan] Poddubny (although he had an ordinary figure for a boy in the year 2023).

The boy grew pensive and sighed deeply.

“Why were they so tiny and weak?” he asked mournfully.

“They had begun living the right way only in 1917 and, at first, only here in Russia. And they had a bad diet — they just ate bread and meat, I think.”

“But didn’t they have life wafers?” the son continued.

“No.”

“And they didn’t have strength and health extract either?”

“No, they didn’t have them either.”

The boy again felt sorry for them.

“Poor things,” he said, adding, “My school comrade Petya Kominternov told me that at the Antiquities Museum he once saw a men’s shoe from back then that he could get only three toes into, leaving half his foot uncovered. Only this one 5-year-old boy was barely able to put the shoe on. So it’s true?”

“It certainly is,” the father confirmed, adding, “But if it hadn’t been for those feeble-bodied but strong-willed tiny people, then we wouldn’t be so tall and strong, so free and happy, and you wouldn’t see the splendid things you’ll see today.”

________

After listening to Prokhorov’s reminiscences, the father and son headed to the fair, where an exhibition of various innovations had commenced. The unusual number of improvements and new inventions that were made each year was achieved through the free collective labor and creativity of the Great Worldwide Republic’s happy inhabitants.

You name it, it was there. In full view of the public, truck farmers grew various unusually delicious vegetables in five minutes using a newly developed fertilizer, while flower gardeners, as if they were fairytale wizards, cultivated tropical plants on the Square of the Victims of the Revolution in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. The unceasing sounds of the Petersburger Prokhorov’s gramophone organ complemented an endless, dazzling New Year’s fireworks display, which depicted the events of 1917–1923 — congresses of Soviets, wars, and revolutions — in a series of fiery tableaux. The expositions of technological and mechanical marvels alternated with works of art. A women’s, men’s and children’s beauty pageant provoked merry laughter among participants and spectators alike, for there were no homely people and there was thus no one on whom the prize could be bestowed — all of them were extraordinarily beautiful.

But the highlight of the festivities was an experiment carried out by a group of scientists from Earth and Mars that consisted in mutually attracting the said planets by means of devices that the said scientists had invented. The devices released the appropriate gas from each of the planets, causing them to alter their orbits (their motion through the void of space) and bringing them quite close to each other.

The audience’s delight knew no bounds.

The 14-year-old citizen sat up pensively for a long while after going to bed that night.

“Why aren’t you sleeping, dear?” his father asked tenderly.

“Dad,” the boy said thoughtfully, “how good it would be if Comrade Lenin were alive now.”

“My dear son,” said the father, his voice trembling with tearful, tender emotion, “Lenin is alive. Lenin is immortal. He is part of everything you saw today. Sleep, my boy. Lenin is alive and will never die. Can dynamics or electrification die? No, they can’t. Isn’t Lenin the sum of all of those things? He is everything.”

The starry night quietly descended on January 2, 2023.

The 14-year-old citizen sleeps. He dreams of the Progenitor of worldwide happiness and freedom, the short, stout man in suit and cap, with intelligent, penetrating eyes and the good-natured, sly smile on his lips known to the entire universe.

The boy smiles in his sleep.

“Dear comrade Lenin. Dear Ilyich. Good Ilyich, kind… dear Ilyich…”

Vasily Andreyev

Source: Krasnaya Zvezda 254 (299), 31 December 1922–1 January 1923, p. 3. Thanks to Szarapow for unearthing and sharing this gem. Translated by the Russian Reader


Vasily Mikhailovich Andreyev (December 28 (January 9), 1889—October 1, 1942) was a Russian Soviet prose writer, playwright, journalist, and exponent of “ornamental” prose in literature. In the 1940s he was repressed.

He was born in St. Petersburg to the family of a bank teller. His mother was a homemaker. He graduated from a four-grade municipal school. In his youth, he was involved in the revolutionary movement. In 1910, he was convicted of murdering a gendarme (according to the writer’s daughter: “he was covering someone handing out revolutionary leaflets”). From 1910 to 1913 he was exiled in the Turukhansk Region, whence he fled. According to some reports, he helped arrange Stalin’s escape. He was amnestied in connection with the celebration of House of Romanov’s 300th anniversary.

He began publishing in 1916 in newspapers under the pseudonyms Andrei Sunny, Vaska the Newspaperman, Vaska the Editor, etc. Until 1917, he mainly lived in Ligovo, but after the October Revolution he returned to Petrograd and became a professional writer. In the late 1920s, in a letter to S.N. Sergeyev-Tsensky, Maxim Gorky spoke of Andreyev as a writer who was “not susceptible to Americanization.”

A talented writer on social themes who suffered from binge drinking and dearly loved his sickly daughter, there was nothing but a cot and an office desk in his room, and he carried in his empty, beat-up wallet a certificate stating that he had shot a policeman in such-and-such pre-revolutionary year.

[…]

On August 27, 1941, Andreyev left his house and did not return. As transpired later, in response to a query sent to the KGB by the literary critic Vladimir Bakhtin, Andreyev had been arrested by the Leningrad Regional NKVD. He was charged under Article 58-10 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (“anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”). He was later transferred to the city of Mariinsk, Novosibirsk Region, where he died on October 1, 1942, of “cardiac arrest due to beriberi.”

He was exonerated on January 23, 2001.

[…]

Source: Wikipedia. Translated by TRR